A southern African regional bloc has called for an emergency meeting to discuss the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) disputed presidential election, as a court in Kinshasa began hearing an appeal against the results announced last week.
Opposition candidate Martin Fayulu filed a court challenge over the weekend, demanding a recount, claiming that he won the presidential race with 61 percent of the vote.
But the DRC’s electoral commission has said Felix Tshisekedi won 38 percent of the vote and Fayulu 34 percent.
Outgoing President Joseph Kabila’s diplomatic adviser, Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, told Reuters news agency on Tuesday that he would attend the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) meeting scheduled on Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
It was not immediately clear who else from the DRC would be present or what action, if any, the 16-member bloc – which on Monday called for a recount of the votes – might decide to take.
On Tuesday, lawyers for Fayulu urged the Constitutional Court to order a recount.
The court, made up of nine judges, is considered by the opposition to be friendly to Kabila, and Fayulu has said he is not confident that it will rule in his favour.
Fayulu has alleged that Tshisekedi’s win was the result of a backroom deal between Tshisekedi and Kabila that allows Kabila to maintain control over important ministries and the security services.
Tshisekedi and Kabila deny there was any deal.
The December 30 election was meant to lead to the DRC’s first democratic transfer of power, but allegations of fraud cast doubt on the outcome and threatened to reawaken large-scale unrest in the vast central African country.
Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) also plans to file a challenge to the results of the legislative election, which took place the same day as the presidential vote, UDPS spokesman Vidiye Tshimanga said.
Although the presidential candidate of Kabila’s ruling coalition, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, won only 24 percent of the vote, the coalition took more than 350 of 500 seats in the National Assembly, compared with about 30 for the UDPS.
This could undermine Tshisekedi’s ability to live up to campaign promises to break with Kabila’s long tenure, which began in 2001 when his father was assassinated.
The DRC’s influential Catholic Church has said the presidential results were inconsistent with those gathered by its election observers.
It, however, has not said whom it believes won.
The UN Security Council on Tuesday called on all players in the DRC to respect the outcome of the elections.
In a unanimous statement, the Council “stressed the need for all concerned stakeholders to act in a way that reaffirms the integrity of the electoral process and respects the outcome of the poll, upholds democracy and preserves peace in the country”.
The French-drafted statement has been under discussion since last week when the Council met to discuss the outcome of the December 30 poll.
France, Belgium, the United States and Britain have also expressed concern over the result of the polls.
But perceived criticism from inside Africa could hold greater sway, with approval from regional partners critical for the legitimacy of the next president.
The DRC is the world’s leading miner of cobalt, a mineral used in electric car batteries and mobile phones, and Africa’s biggest copper producer. It also mines gold and diamonds.